You will be able to work under an Australian student visa beneath certain conditions. The type of student visa you have will depend on the type of your study programme, which will in turn impact your work rights. However, students under all visa types WILL be able to work.
In most circumstances students will be able to work up to 40 hours per fortnight during academic semester, and may work unlimited hours during term breaks. Students of all visa types are unable to commence work until the official start date of their study programme, and will need to maintain a good academic standard in order to retain the right to work.
Higher Education Sector Visa (Subclass 573)
When you study abroad in Australia this is the visa you’re most likely to have. Students completing their Bachelor Degree (opens in a new window), Associate Degree (opens in a new window), Graduate Certificate or Diploma, Higher Education Diploma or Masters (opens in a new window) by coursework will require this visa.
On this visa you may work up to 40 hours per fortnight during academic term, and unlimited hours during term break. Any type of work that is considered a part of your study programme will not count towards this limit, i.e. a credited internship or training programme that is organised by your university. Certain types of unpaid and volunteer work however WILL count towards the limit.
Postgraduate Research Sector Visa (Subclass 574)
Students with this visa are enrolled in a Masters degree by research, or are completing a Doctorate (opens in a new window) course of study. Beneath this visa you will have unlimited work rights, but cannot commence working until your study programme officially begins. If you are completing a course that is preliminary to your main study programme, such as a Pre-Masters (opens in a new window) course, you will be able to work a maximum of 40 hours per fortnight, but will have unlimited work rights once your main programme begins.
WHAT KIND OF WORK CAN I DO?
As an international student you will be able to undertake most types of paid, part-time employment roles across a range of industries, including retail, hospitality, tourism, agricultural, sales and telemarketing, administration or clerical roles and tutoring. You are also allowed to accept part time or casual work within your field if you have existing qualifications and meet specific job requirements.
You will also be able to accept paid or unpaid internship positions as well as complete volunteer work. Voluntary or unpaid work will not count towards the 40 hours if the work is considered a benefit to the community, is for a non-profit organisation or would not be offered as a paid position to an Australian resident: that is, the position is the same for both locals and non-residents. Unpaid work in return for board and lodging will also not count towards your weekly maximum of allowed work hours. Any other type of unpaid work, i.e. professional internships or work placements, WILL count towards your fortnightly quota.
As an international student you will have basic work rights if you choose to accept employment in Australia. This means you are entitled to earn at least a minimum wage, a challenge of an unfair dismissal from a job, standard break and rest periods and the right to a safe working environment. Acceptable working standards for a given industry are covered by what is called an ‘award,’ which outlines employer’s obligations in providing an acceptable work environment. If they do not meet these requirements then they may be held accountable by the government, and you are within your rights to report them.
To work in Australia you will need to obtain a Tax File Number (opens in a new window).
Tax File Number (TFN)
Your tax file number is a reference number the Australian government uses to keep track of your employment situation so they know how much you need to pay in tax per year. You will need this number to accept employment, ensure you’re paying the correct amount of tax and lodge a tax return at the end of the financial year.
You will only ever be issued one TFN. If your circumstances change or for some reason you lose your details, you DO NOT need to re-apply. You can apply for a TFN online visa the Australian Government Taxation Office website. (opens in a new window)
WHAT DO STUDENTS USUALLY WORK AS?
In Australia it’s considered the norm for students to work part-time whilst they study. The type of work they do typically varies depending on which study level they are on, i.e. undergraduate students usually work in the service industry a few days a week, whilst postgraduate students are more likely to undertake junior or training roles directly related to their field as they hold more qualifications. It is also common for postgraduate students to complete traineeships, assistantships or paid research roles either through the university or directly as part of their study programme.
It is most common for both international and local students to work in the service sector whilst they study. Australia has a thriving hospitality industry with a spate of establishments that often seek to employ students. Minimum wages within the service industry go up in brackets based on your age, so students 18-21 will receive a certain salary, whilst those above 21 will receive one that is higher. For this reason many hospitality employers are happy to be flexible in shift times to suit a university student’s timetable, and will often seek to recruit students directly for casual or part-time positions. Working part-time in these sorts of establishments can also be a great way to make new friends and experience student life as a local might.
You can check awards and your work and salary entitlements on the Australian Fair Work Commission website (opens in a new window).
Almost all universities have careers centres that advertise part-time student jobs across a range of industries. If you’re looking for a job that’s either university-based or more related to your field of study, your university job board will probably be your best bet. Employers and companies often approach universities hoping to poach students studying certain fields to fill positions that require a bit of specialist knowledge, i.e. lab assistant, computer technician assistant. Many students secure internships, junior professional positions such as assistants and work experience positions through their university. You might also secure an administration position within the university, such as at the reception desk of a particular faculty, within the university library or even as a research assistant with a professor.
Sometimes there are positions available on campus with commercial companies that are affiliated with the university, such as within the university bookstore or at a campus café. These are almost always advertised internally.
Work Experience and Volunteering
As an international student you will be able to accept work experience, internship and volunteer positions, and will have the right to search for and undertake these positions under the same conditions as local students. This means that you’re able to search directly for positions on organisation websites, chase up advertisements seen privately or even approach a company and inquire if they have any work experience positions available. In all cases, you will be required to produce a cover letter introducing yourself and an up-to-date CV.
Many organisations advertise these types of positions through universities as they are often specifically tailored for students with a bit of knowledge in their field. In Australia employers value confidence highly and will appreciate the initiative taken in contacting them and asking for work, as long as you don’t appear too entitled or pushy.
WHERE CAN I FIND WORK?
You will be able to find work using any of the resources a local student would. If not advertised by your university job board, you should look online at popular, all-industry job websites such as seek.com.au (opens in a new window) and Australian JobSearch (opens in a new window). There are also a number of industry-specific job websites that may also advertise internship and work experience positions, such as pedestrian.tv (opens in a new window) for Media (opens in a new window), Music (opens in a new window) and Arts (opens in a new window) students, as well as professional networks that focus on a particular field. For example, The Loop (opens in a new window) is an online network where creative professionals, students and employers can create a profile, upload and browse portfolios and search for jobs.
Jobs are also advertised in daily state and local newspapers, whilst service sector jobs can sometimes even be advertised by a sign in a shop or café window.
It’s also acceptable in Australia within service industries and smaller companies to walk into an establishment and simply ask if there is a position vacant. Make sure you have an updated copy of your CV with you, a TFN ready and a working Australian mobile phone number.